Proposals For Regulated Cannabis Market May End Up In European Court, Says Official

The creation of a strictly regulated cannabis market is part of the plan to combat addiction, approved by the government in early April. Photo credit: Freepik.

Prague, May 29 (CTK) – The planned introduction of a legal, regulated cannabis market in the Czech Republic may end up in the European Court of Justice, said national drug policy coordinator Jindrich Voboril at the Cannabis Summit conference in Prague this weekend.

However, he said he believed this to be the best option, as prohibition has been proven not to work and only brings costs and risks.

The draft, which Voboril is preparing, proposes the authorisation of domestic and commercial cultivation of cannabis, the establishment of special clubs for recreational use, and licensed sale in shops for people over 18.

The creation of a strictly regulated cannabis market is part of the plan to combat addiction, approved by the government in early April, which also includes strengthening prevention and treatment of addiction and higher taxation of addictive substances.

Voboril said that he would like the Chamber of Deputies to approve the bill by the end of the year, ideally allowing the regulated market to start next year.

However, given the European legislation and the fact that the Czech government is now the only one in the EU envisaging a commercial market for the recreational use of cannabis, it is likely that another member state will challenge the measure in the European Court of Justice, he warned.

If the Czech state loses the lawsuit, which could take years, it has other solutions available, he noted, though these options are not as good.

Today, the coordinator also described some of the expected parameters of the planned change.

Entry to the hemp market will be made conditional on a paid licence. According to Voboril, the plan is to charge about CZK 50,000 a year for a 200-square-metre area for cultivation, with the same amount to be paid by vendors. Pharmacies would be able to sell cannabis without a fee, while individual citizens could grow it freely at home in an area of ​​up to three square metres.

Voboril said he did not intend to limit the number of licences issued, but the government coalition is discussing whether to limit the area for each producer to prevent the market from gradually being dominated by a few big players.

The coordinator would also like to introduce user registration, which would limit the amount of marijuana that can be bought per month.

Kai-Friedrich Niermann, a German lawyer and expert on European regulation, told CTK that commercial sales could indeed be problematic under both international and European law.

According to a 1961 international agreement, the distribution of marijuana is only possible for scientific and medical purposes, but he said this could be resolved by, for example, withdrawing from the agreement and re-joining it with a reservation.

The lawyer said European legislation also stipulated that it was not possible to distribute marijuana without a reason. But if it is legalised, he added, a reason exists, so it would be possible to justify the sale.

The problem, however, and one of the reasons why other countries have abandoned this path, lies in the free movement of goods and services, which is one of the EU pillars. If only one country opens the market, this is problematic because other countries cannot participate in this market, Niermann pointed out.

Conference organiser Sean Carney told CTK that the main objections to Voboril’s plan were raised by the junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL). However, he said, they should take into account the evidence-based facts, which show that it is better to introduce a regulated market to limit harms than to preserve the current situation where marijuana can be easily purchased on the black market, but without any guarantee of its safety or economic benefit for the state.

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